Book I Love But Others Love to Hate – Part 2

Last week I made the point that real readers are becoming frighteningly uncommon, so in an effort to get people to read more, I thought I’d share with the world why I love some of the hot and hated books right now – and, therefore, why I think they’re worth reading.  Last week’s post was about Stephanie Meyer and her books, the Twilight Saga and The Host (click here to read last week’s post!), and this week’s topic is going to be about Christopher Paolini and his books, the Inheritance Cycle (a.k.a. the Eragon books)!

Now I know this one might not be hated as hotly as the Twilight books are, but (in my experience, at least), I’ve gotten a lot of sneers for confessing my love for these books (and I know a lot of friends who have gotten sneers for liking them, too).  Some of the arguments I’ve heard most often against Paolini’s books (there are four: Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance) are that he uses too much description, the language he uses is hard to understand, his characters/the setting/the world/the storyline are not believable, etc., etc.  There are many more things I’ve heard people say about how “bad” these books are, but the ones I listed are what I’m going to address, so I’ll stop there.

For one thing, I thing it’s pointless to argue that a book’s plot or characters or setting is unbelievable – especially when that book is clearly fiction.  The whole point of setting a novel in another world is so that your readers aren’t always worrying about whether something in the story is “believable” or not.  And I’m making this argument as both a reader/book-lover AND writer/aspiring-novelist.  So don’t call something in a fiction book “unbelievable” unless you know that the author intended the story to be accurate to life… or unless you mean it in the “this book is so awesome!!” sense.

Description has always been a matter of opinion to me – some people like to read longer descriptions that paint pictures in the reader’s mind, and some people like less description so that they can let their imaginations fill in the details that were left out.  It’s the difference between describing (for example) someone’s eyes as “the green-blue color of the ocean, shaded by thick, dark lashes” or simply as “piercing.”  So in the case of Eragon and Paolini’s other books, I would agree that he has a lot of description – but I would also argue that his description is eloquent, beautiful and appropriate.  He’s not another Melville.  (If you don’t get that reference, go read Moby-Dick… or at least try.)

Which leads me to my next point – there’s nothing wrong with good, well-educated and well-used diction and vocabulary.  Yes, I do think Paolini uses a lot of vocabulary that the average public high-schooler might not know, but so what?  When you don’t know a word, look it up!  (It’s called “LEARNING!”)  I grew up reading tons of books that were technically “above” my reading level, so I learned a lot of words sooner than most other kids my age, and it actually gave me an advantage in my high school literature classes.  Sure, you can call me a nerd if you want – or you can ask me what a word means and learn something yourself.

Ok, I can’t let this topic go until we talk about the film version of Eragon.  Unfortunately, this is one instance where I agree with the general public (and in this case, the general public’s opinion is by far the majority opinion)  – the movie was terrible.  Bad acting, bad accuracy to the book (and I mean worse than usual, Hollywood), low budget, they never made the other books into movies (so we have no sense of how much better it could have been), and it just wasn’t very well made in general.  Now don’t get me wrong – there are actors in there that I loved when they were in other films, but they just weren’t the right ones to play these characters…  The books were epic and really well anticipated when they were still coming out, but I don’t think this movie was very highly anticipated – and of the people who did have high expectations, it turned out to be a sorry disappointment.

So those are my thoughts on Christopher Paolini and his Inheritance books!  I’d be very interested to hear what your opinions are of these books, or, if you haven’t read any of them, whether my post has made you any more motivated to read them now!  Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

Books I Love But Others Love to Hate – Part 1

Reading is becoming a lost art.  FAR too many people have told me “I don’t read” or “I don’t think I’ve ever actually finished a real book before,” and it makes me want to cry.  And rant.  And (of course) write about it.  (Even though the only people who will read this are actually readers…)

I’m one of those people who became a bookworm and bibliophile the moment I learned to read.  I have my own personal library at home (I have about 140 books), and I’ve read all of them at least once (some of them more than 4 or 5 times).  Needless to say, I’ve read quite a few books – many of which have been novels and series that became popular within the last 5 years.  Of these books (the ones that have recently become popular), a few have been made into movies and therefore become hotly debated topics of conversation because of their added publicity and popularity.

So, in an effort to persuade people who “aren’t readers” to pick up a book “everybody else” is reading, I thought I’d start a series of posts about books I’ve come to love, but others love to hate.  I don’t know how long this series will last (it’s at least worthy of 2 or 3 more posts), but I’ll only cover one book (or series, or author) in each post.

For this post, it seems appropriate that I start with Stephanie Meyer and her books – The Twilight Saga and The Host.

Yes, I’m a Twilight fan – but not for the reasons I know all of you are thinking.  First off, I hate how people tend to lump the movies in with the books and call them the same thing.  They aren’t the same thing!  And this is coming from someone who has actually READ all the books!  Now I must admit, I do like the movies.  Yes, the first couple got off to a rough start because the cast wasn’t that great and they had small budgets, but once they got a little momentum, I think they’re a series of pretty well-made movies with mediocre-to-okay acting.

The books, however, are a whole different story (no pun intended).  I consider Stephanie Meyer to be a good author.  She’s simply a fantastic writer, and even though she’s been accused of taking cliches and somehow “remaking” them without actually remaking them well, her stories are deeper than that.  Beneath those first person narratives, there’s a pervasive theme that’s present in both the Twilight Saga and her novel, The Host: what does it mean to be human?  It’s a prevalent question!  All Meyer does is explore it in the context of a series of fiction novels.  In the Twilight books, the question is about whether vampires are still “human” in the sense that they retain essential elements of their humanity even after they’re changed into vampires.  In The Host, the question is whether the alien species that has invaded the earth and taken over humanity actually has elements of humanity in themselves, and whether being intimately linked with humans makes them more human.

Whether or not you care about these deeper topics, though, I think Meyer’s novels are worth reading simply because they capture a character’s perspective in a way that makes them easy to identify with and easy to understand.  Bella of Twilight and Wanda of The Host are admirable characters, and they have nuances to their personalities that you’re still discovering even as the story is coming to a close.  In short, Meyer’s characterization skills by themselves are worth witnessing.

One final note – because The Host was written after the Twilight Saga, the quality of writing is noticeably better, and it’s written more for an older audience than the Twilight books were.  Even if you’ve read the Twilight books and not liked them, I would still recommend reading The Host simply because it’s so different from the Twilight books.

What are your thoughts on this author?  What was your reaction when you read these books or saw these movies? Does my argument make you want to read them any more than you did before you read this post? I’d be very interested to hear your answers!  As always, thanks for reading!

My Creative Writing: Poetry

Ok, I must admit that I’m really excited about this post.  This week’s piece of poetry is “balloons and fairy wings.”  Of all the poetry I’ve ever written, this one is my favourite. :3  I realize that in saying that, I’m setting myself up for high expectations from my readers, but I’m going to say it anyway!

This poem also happens to be one of the few pieces I’ve read aloud, so if you’re interested in hearing it, here’s the link: https://soundcloud.com/mistressofquills/balloons-and-fairy-wings.

Anyway, I always love and appreciate comments on the quality and writing I display in the “My Creative Writing” posts, so thanks for reading!

 

balloons and fairy wings

I wish emotions
could be tied to words
the way they’re tied
to memories:
like the way strings
are tied to balloons
or the way wings
are tied to fairies’ backs –
with a bow and a knot
so the words
are never forgotten
and the emotions
that swayed the heart
and captured the soul
at the time of their birth
are never lost to the snatching,
jealous fist of time

you see, it’s quite a journey
being born as a writer’s words:
you open your eyes
to a world of vivid color
and (sometimes)
crippling emotion
feeling the sharpness of reality
hearing the noise
of a deaf world weeping
tasting the tang
of an infant’s breath of old air
and noticing the scent
of a cruel, unsympathetic universe

an infant word
is like an infant star:
when you grow
(and become loved
by your Creator)
you mature to shine
with your own beauty –
a brilliance
to which very few things
can ever compare

yet you are distant
and your light so very cold…

but I love you
and the stars
anyway

(fleeting) Inspiration.

One problem that every single writer who has ever lived (or ever will live) has come across is the problem of writer’s block – a period of time where inspiration decides to leave us in the dry, cold, colorless dust.  It’s an incredibly frustrating feeling: wanting to write, knowing you should be writing because you haven’t for far too long, but unable to conceive of a worthy topic or just unable to put anything you think and feel into the right words.  It’s like feeling out of sorts.  Nothing is right or normal or the way it should be, and you feel unsettled and uncomfortable in your own skin until the feeling goes away, or – for writers (and other artists) – until inspiration returns.  Which usually happens in long-anticipated floods of emotion and epiphany and color.

But how does this ebb and flow of inspiration work?  What makes it flutter away on disdainful wings like the spiteful Muses of old, and what makes it return in such productive floods and overwhelming relief?  (I think the Muses had/have Bi-Polar Disorder.  It would explain a LOT.)

Some writers turn to alcohol and/or drugs to prolong (or induce) their surges of inspiration.  Others feed off the emotional roller-coasters that dominate their lives – and sometimes those in the lives of others, too.  Sometimes it’s a combination of both those things that provides the impetus for new pieces to be created.

Not long ago, I wrote a journal entry about my current (at the time) state of mind and related it to the descriptions of how other writers get their artificially-induced periods of inspiration, and I think it does a pretty good job of describing my position on the issue of inspiration and how it comes to a writer.  Following is a section taken from that journal entry:

“I assure you, I am NOT saying that I’m “under the influence” right now, but I think I can begin to understand why [the writers doing drugs] did that… for the last few days now, I’ve been hovering in this state of mind where it’s as if I’m in some sort of detached unreality.  It’s like I’m still living my life, but I’m also observing it from a perspective that lets me see more – perceive more – than my normal outlook would usually allow me.  It’s giving me so much inspiration that I’m hardly finishing the first draft of one poem before the words of the next get shoved through my mind and out my fingers…

I am not a sadist or a masochist, nor am I the type to think of the glass as either half empty or half full (actually, I tend to really dislike that metaphor), but the pain that I’m going through has been a blessing as well as a curse.  I won’t be sorry when it’s gone, but I also won’t be sorry that I went through it.  Make of that what you will, but I can understand why those writers might have tried to prolong the time they were in the state of inspiration.

Nothing good (usually) comes of writing without inspiration, so they tried to figure out how to bring it on at will.  Granted, it was very often through using illegal substances or being irresponsible drinkers, but you see my point, right?  I tend to not call myself an optimist or a pessimist because there is truth in both of those labels for me, but I like what’s coming out of my pen right now.  It’s a slightly new style than my norm, but I’m letting it take me where it will, and I’m just fine with going along for the ride…

As long as the ride ends happily.  If not, then I’d be ok with it continuing for a while longer…”

My point in sharing this excerpt is that life gives us every reason we need to write.  It provides too many topics for us to ever explore thoroughly enough, and its ups and downs leave no time – or reason – to use anything else to augment the flow of that vital inspiration.

The Writer as an Artist

How would you describe a writer?  What definition would you give?  “Someone who puts thoughts and ideas into words,” perhaps?  Or maybe “someone who creates stories” or even “someone who can express themselves through the written word”?

My definition is much more simple: a writer is an artist.  Artists use their surroundings, emotions, perceptions and ideas as their material to create their own medium of communication.  That medium is their chosen form of art, and through that art, they attempt to communicate their unique and profound perceptions of truth and beauty.  This is exactly what writers do.  There may be many, many, many forms of writing out there, but there are myriad types and forms of art too – painting, pottery, sculpting, drawing, photography, animation, jewelry making, cinematography, acting, singing…  The list goes on.  Granted, there will always be disagreements about which forms of writing (and other art forms too, for that matter) actually qualify as art, but my point remains the same: writers are artists.

Some would argue that writing is a lesser form of art than the ones I listed above because pieces like paintings and sculptures are forms of “visual art,” and are therefore universally easier to understand because they lack a language barrier.  I would counter that any kind of visual art can be just as hard to understand as a piece of writing that isn’t written in your language.  Every piece of art has a profound concept behind it, and it’s the skill and intention of the artist that makes that piece of art easy or hard to understand.  Also, other types of art have just as many restrictions as writing does.  Pieces of writing can always be translated (even if some of the original meaning can get lost in the translation), but other forms of art have other restrictions that writing doesn’t have – such as being confined to one still image if we’re talking about photography or painting, or being restricted to a certain time frame if we’re talking about cinematography or animation, or even the restriction of one specific pose or shape if we’re talking about sculpting or pottery.  All of these restrictions put pressure on the artist, forcing him to refine and clarify his concept before pursuing it in his chosen art form.

I would even go so far as to say that writing might actually be a way of reaching more people than any other form of art.  Because no matter what picture you wish to convey in your reader’s mind, it will always look different to every eye that reads it.  You want to paint the image of a beautiful woman?  She will be beautiful, no matter what details you use to describe her because everyone who reads that description will imagine their own version of beauty.  It might not be your version, but you succeeded in communicating what you set out to.

You want to describe a desolate wasteland?  An emotion etched into a character’s face?  An object of rare beauty and mystical power?  Use the best language you can find, translating it from the image fixed in your mind, and if your skill can make the image breathe, you’ve succeeded in your purpose.

Because words are not color; they are the brushes.

Words are not lenses; they are the light by which you see the model.

Words are not the end; they are the means.

Visual artists can only show you one picture, but words can not only show you the whole story, they can become every perspective, conform themselves to every individual’s imagination, and even communicate an ideal in its truest, purest form.  Because the idea behind the words is an essence even the blind can understand.

And everybody knows that even the blind can read.

 

SoundCloud – Reading My Poetry

Hello all!

I’ve recently been doing something new with my poetry – something that has been picking up in popularity within the literature community on deviantART (my most active site).  Usually the words of a writer are confined to the page on which they were written and the hearts and minds of the readers, but recently I’ve been experimenting with recording myself reading my own poetry and then posting the tracks online for my readers to listen to.  I’m using a site called SoundCloud to do this, and I think it’s proven to be a success so far.  My deviantART readers were thrilled to hear their favourite pieces read aloud, especially by me, the author, so I’m hoping my readers on this site will like it too!

The first recording I did was of my poem “Untitled.”  I’ve posted that piece here before, but I’ll re-post it below for those of you who like to follow along as something is read aloud to you!  The link for the sound recording will be right above the poem.

Thank you for reading, and please let me know what you think of this idea!  I’ve done several other recordings so far too, so those will be posted sometime in the near future!

 

https://soundcloud.com/mistressofquills/untitled

 

Untitled

1.
inexplicable things
that we sense
like wings fluttering
in the shadows

or chest rising with the effort
of feeling

crystal chandeliers
so fragile in the wind

shards of memory
piercing the stillness
and screams silenced
with agony

the lashes to our eyes
hurt and bleed

come again
and wound me

so close to breaking
I can see the cracks.
they widen
and begin to disintegrate

the holes patched
the pain “forgotten”
(as if things
like that can just go away)

I see light
cold and clear through dry eyelashes
whispers in the ink
and music that sings

2.
inexplicable things
darling and sweet
unmistakable
…and there

I see the light in your eyes
I hear your warm heart

I know your thoughts
…I feel you here

there it is
on the raven’s wings:
happiness…
on the feathers of pain

I can see the black
far away

but always close
as a dream (nightmare)

I am not lost
I can see beauty
light is fun to watch…
dancing in the eddies

hands are warm
inviting and open
new for me and my still heart
who are you?

a new word is mine
never mine before
glass – fragile with color prisms:
happy.

3.
inexplicable things
so incomprehensible
and wrong
opposite and backwards

impossible to understand
I don’t…

a paradox
brows furrowed

flashes and color
exploding
rampant, run wild
and be beautiful

yes or no?
stutter in silence

numb and trapped
words with no explanation

behind the scenes
a fairy (or elf?)
pulls the strings
marionette or voodoo doll?

highs and lows
intense beyond measure
tears and smiles
either or, or even together

what is this creature?
the piano plays on
rising notes
in question

Publishing… And All It’s Difficulties

Hello readers!  This time I’ve got a video for you about the publishing process.  The guy talking is George Wier, author of the Bill Travis Mysteries.

 

I think this topic is interesting in that there are a lot of ways you can approach it, yet the conclusions you can reach at the end are actually few in number.  Wier makes the point that the “traditional publishing route” is extrememly hard and long, but it’s the “normal” way, and it’s the established/proven/”safe” way.  What I mean by “safe” is that you know you’re doing someting right when you try getting published that way because (to continue the analogy) it’s a well-traveled path – lots of people had tried it and failed, and a few have tried it and succeeded.  The facts say that the chances are stacked agaist you whether you’re a genious writer like Terry Goodkind, or just someone trying to make their living as a writer by putting in their very first novel for publication (i.e. someone like future-me…).

And yet, who’s to stop you?  I mean, Wier talks about two other approaches to publishing (but leaves out the whole idea of self-publinshing…), but what’s wrong with simply having hope and trying your best?  Yes, yes – *sigh* – I know I’m sounding very naive right now, but what’s wrong with makeing a plan for your life based on the future success you think you can acheive?  I know this post is starting to sound more like a pep-talk now, but I think this needs to be said: there may be facts.  There may be odds.  There may even be – wait for it – opposition! But why should that discourage you (I mean, us) from doing things the way we can and want to do them?

I happen to be one of those people who thinks that if you want to succeed at something, you should educate yourself as best you can and then try to do your best to succeed in that endeavor by and means that are available until you do succeed.  In this case (in my case), that means trying the established ways first, and then, if those established ways prove to fail, the less conventional ways.

In other words, if I want to be a successful, published author, I should get myself as prepared and trained as possible and then try to get myself published through the ordinary, traditional way first.  If that doesn’t work, then I’ll try other means, working my way through my list of options until I find one that works.

What I’m trying to say is, if you want to do something, TRY IT before you get discouraged.  Don’t freak out from the first moment you hear the oppostion and odds…  That’s just a recipe for failure – in fact, doing that gets you a day or two’s travel down that road already.  I think that is what we can learn from this video more than anything else.